As a writer, I have two extreme moods.
One is that I’m feeling incredibly inspired, where it’s difficult to just write down every single idea I have, and even more difficult to actively pursue them all. The second mood is one all writers know too well: Writer’s block.
I’ve been writing for over a decade, so I’m not new to the uninspiring feeling of staring at a blank Word document for hours without having anything to say.
But, I do have a unique solution: Whenever I felt a particular lack of creative energy, I turn to video games: specifically, The Sims.
Video games can provide inspiration when you feel like all hope is lost. Here’s how they can help you conquer writer’s block.
1. They teach you about plot
Science fiction and fantasy writer Benjanun Sriduangkaew has most recently been inspired by Masquerada, NieR: Automata, and Transistor as well as older games Silent Hill 2 and 3.
“I was absolutely obsessed with [Automata] for at least a month after completing the game, and a lot of the story beats, themes and imagery have stayed with me,” she explained. “I like to say that writers can learn a lot from its opening, where protagonist 2B contemplates the ‘spiral of life and death’ and her speculation on whether she will have a chance to kill the god that created her one day. It sets the theme and, fitting with 2B’s musing that everything that lives is designed to end, we see her entire squad quickly slaughtered with 2B as the lone survivor.”
Different plots will expose you to different storylines, whether they’re complex or simple, entertaining or boring, and good or bad. Either way, there’s something to be learned from all of them.
2. They tell you how not to write
Comic illustrator and writer Victoria Chu turned to Japanese role playing games, such as the Final Fantasy Tale of- series, to learn how to “flesh out” narratives and tell a detailed storyline.
However, oftentimes, she noticed the plots were often extremely complicated and convoluted, which encouraged her to shy away from that type of narrative arc.
“With Final Fantasy, the original art style helped me shape what kind of aesthetic I want in my stories/ worlds,” she explains. “The narrative I find is recycling the typical one true hero archetype so I tend to not use those games for examples in writing.”
3. They help you sort through emotions
“The last time a game helped me was when I played Persona 5 and SMT4 Apocalypse,” Chu added. “Having to deal with dark feelings was refreshing because it was making me uncomfortable in a good way.”
While the content wasn’t emotionally triggering, the plots allowed her to understand the weight of a story conflict in a much deeper way. She learned that dark narrative themes don’t always have to equivocate distressing content.
Additionally, when I played the Sims, it was the first time I emotionally processed what it was like to have siblings. I grew up as an only child and never had to share any of my belongings or spaces in my household, so when my characters had big families, it helped me gain a little insight — but admittedly not that much — in how I’d write about siblings. For instance, when there was only one computer in the household and a child was playing on it, I saw the other child’s fun level go down.
4. They make you pay attention to details
While video games haven’t completely helped Sriduangkaew out of writer’s block, she mentions that playing video games help her pay attention to small details, such as lighting.
“I was stuck in a military science fiction story,” she explains. “Something in XCOM 2 nudged me with a little detail that let me finish writing an atmospheric description. I think it was something as random as the lighting in a mission.”
Oftentimes, a video game’s minor details and touches can help us spark the small touches to add to our own stories, whether it’s lightning bolts in the background–or the Simlish language, the fake language Sim characters speak.
5. They have stellar soundtracks
If you’re like me, you can easily find yourself consumed and distracted by music when you’re supposed to be working. (Since I work from home, I don’t have any colleagues to disrupt when I burst out into song.)
Fortunately, many video game soundtracks are instrumental.
“Many games have music that’s intrinsically linked to individual scenes or moments,” Sriduangkaew explains. “They’re much better than most at putting me in specific moods.
Plus, you don’t even have to play video games to listen to their soundtracks.
To help you get in the zone, pop up your preferred music streaming app of your choice, search for a popular video game soundtrack, and get your pen and paper ready.
The next time you’re feeling stuck, pick up a video game and allow yourself to get lost. You may soon find yourself inspired by the game’s storyline.
Do you have a go-to game you play to foster creative energy?
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